To bring the fresh and deadly Covid-19 breakout under control and boost the economies of South Asian region, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi called a virtual meeting on Tuesday which was attended by his counterparts from five South Asian countries. The participants included Mirwais Nab, acting Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, A.K. Abdul Momen of Bangladesh, Pradeep Kumar Gyawali of Nepal, Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi of Pakistan, and Dinesh Gunawardena of Sri Lanka.
According to Chinese state media, despite being invited, India abstained from the meeting, along with the Foreign Ministers of Bhutan and Maldives.
The meeting identified Covid-19 as “a common enemy of humankind,” and concluded that the states should step up solidarity and cooperation to defeat the pandemic. Beijing’s offer to extend medical as well as technical assistance to the countries that participated in the ministerial meeting was appreciated by the other foreign ministers
While speaking at the meeting, Wang Yi stressed on mutual cooperation to eliminate poverty from the South Asian region, and announced that China will establish a poverty alleviation centre. The Foreign Ministers who participated the meeting also decided to track the worsening Covid-19 situation in India, and expressed their commitment to extend support to India.
“China had engaged in a quadrilateral meeting with Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan in July 2020. Thereafter, another meeting took place by adding Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to this group of countries in January 2021. The recent meeting is the third in that series. The agenda in the second meeting also included developmental issues in addition to handling of Covid. It is unlikely that India was invited to these meetings,” said China expert and National Security Advisory Board member Lt. Gen S L Narasimhan.
Asked whether India would seek any assistance from China, Narasimhan stated, “At the moment, India is battling against the deadly virus breakout by indigenous resources and support from some other countries. This is likely to tide over the situation. The Indian government will decide on what assistance to seek from which country based on its assessment.”